Evgeny Lebedev is the London-based owner of the Independent, the Evening Standard and London Live – together ESI Media.
Born in Moscow, Evgeny spent his early years living a stone’s throw from the Kremlin.
His father Alexander took a job with the foreign service of the KGB when Evgeny was eight years old, and the family moved to London. Alexander’s job was to report on the goings on in the financial sector in the City of London – it would prove good training for the unfettered capitalism of 90s Russia.
In 2009, Evgeny bought three-quarters of the renowned London newspaper the Evening Standard for a pound. The Standard, which has a history dating back to 1827, was in dire straits, haemorrhaging readers and losing £20 million a year in the face of tough competition from free news available on the Internet.
However, Evgeny pioneered a rebranding and, in October 2009, made the Standard free. It was the first major British paper to do so, relying on higher advertising rates, rather than the cover price, to make the paper profitable. Immediately circulation rocketed to some 650,000.
The bold move paid off, and the paper quickly won a host of plaudits and awards along the way, particularly in recognition of the way it had retained its high quality values. Now read by an estimated 2 million people, the Standard is – for the first time in decades – making a profit.
In March 2010 Evgeny stepped in to save another struggling paper, the Independent. Once again purchasing the paper for a pound, Evgeny oversaw a relaunch and redesign of the famous paper. He then launched a brand new national publication, the i, which was a stripped down version of the Independent selling for fifty pence a copy. The i newspaper was designed to appeal to commuters who are in a hurry, but don’t want to be subjected to dumbed down tabloid fodder.
The i has gone from strength to strength, and became National Newspaper of the Year in 2015. In February 2016, it was announced that Independent Press Ltd had reached an agreement to sell the i to Johnston Press, and that the Independent would become digital-only from March that year.
As well as his business interests, Evgeny is a writer, commentator and patron of the arts.
His journalism has seen him travel around the world to interview global leaders including Hamid Karzai, Mikhael Gorbachev and Alexander Lukashenko. His other projects have included documenting the plight of child soldiers in the Central African Republic with Unicef, meeting and interviewing the Ku Klux Klan at their Arkansas backwoods headquarters and exploring the drug wars in Mexico. These projects have produced a series of articles and broadcasts in Vanity Fair, GQ, Vogue, the Guardian, the BBC and elsewhere.
Evgeny has spearheaded fundraising campaigns across his papers for several years. In 2013-14 he ran an appeal to protect elephants from poachers, while in 2014-15 he led the homeless veteran campaign, working to get ex-army members off the street. This year the Great Ormond Street campaign raised more than £3.5 million, making it the most successful Christmas appeal in the history of the Independent.
Committed to conservation, Evgeny has travelled to Siberia to help save the Amur tiger and leopard species. He also spends time in Africa, working to support the efforts of several countries to save the endangered African elephant from extinction.
Evgeny is a British citizen and lives near Regent’s Park in central London. His personal interests include the theatre, art and literature.